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Getting your First Leadership Role

Written by Michelle Johns 
April 5, 2024 
A woman getting her first leadership role

How to Ace your First Leadership Job Interview

It’s been an interesting time  – people are rethinking careers and life choices. If you are thinking about a your first leadership role, now is the perfect time. We have seen mass resignations, leadership failures, and leaders making a sea change. So, it may be your turn to shine.

So, you may get an interview, but how do you ace it and get the job when you haven’t led a team before?

1. Be ready to share your existing leadership capabilities

If you are applying for your first leadership role you want to be prepared for this question and have other examples of how you have shown your leadership skills. You may need to get innovative here, which is part of being a leader, but I am certain that if you ask yourself a few questions you will realise the many ways you have already been a leader.

  • Have you led a project?
  • Do you coach or captain a sporting team?
  • Have you organised a group of friends to go on a holiday together?
  • Have you been asked to do your manager’s role for a few weeks?
  • Have you ever been a babysitter?

2. Understand what being a leader in 2022 requires

Leading people is not just about “being the boss”. It’s also about being able to solve complex problems, stay calm under pressure and show empathy other team members who are struggling.

Some other leadership qualities:

  • Great communicators – both listening and sharing a vision or idea
  • Creativity – coming up with innovative ways to solve problems
  • Flexibility – to be able to adapt your style to different situations
  • Compassion – to be able to show care for others, even if you do not know what they’re going through
  • Manage uncertainty – think Pandemic. Were you able to focus on your work or the future even though there was no certainty what would happen tomorrow?

If you think broader than managing people, you will find many examples of demonstrating leadership in your career and life so far.


3. Demonstrate how you handle work pressure

Firstly, share an example of how you managed a crisis situation. You could explain that you can remain calm when others in the team are stressed out by the pressure.

Secondly, show the interviewers you have self-awareness. Do you know your breaking point? Do you spend time on self-care? Throughout the interview find an way demonstrate how you maintain your resilience. This could be knowing when you need to take a short break in the workday, or to take some time on the weekends to replenish yourself and how take care of your health and wellbeing.


4. Be ready for behavioural questions

These usually start with “Tell me about a time when…”

Some common questions that are posed to find out how you deal with leadership situations include:

  • Dealing with difficult people or stakeholders
  • Managing complex projects
  • Making decisions under pressure
  • How you manage a team conflict or a “difficult” team member
  • How you go about solving problems
  • How you manage change
  • How you can influence others

Have prepared answers for these questions.


5. Be ready for behavioural questions

How you answer these questions is just as important as what your answer is.

Here is a method to answer these questions. This provides you an opportunity to show how you problem solve, communicate in a clear and concise way through this structure, and how you work under the pressure of being put on the spot.

Firstly – take a breath and a pause to gather your thoughts. To scan your brain for all the examples you have prepared for the interview.


Background – provide the background information. What was the context, the problem that needed solving or the opportunity that was presented?

Actions – what actions did you take. This is the specific tasks you undertook. Or the steps to manage the situation.

Skills – what specific skills did you use in this situation. While you are providing answers to the question, call out specific skills you used. For example, “I used my strong communication skills to provide a picture of how the team would benefit from this new process”.

Impacts – the outcome or the benefits to the company. This is where you describe the outcome. Rather than saying, “so I was successful in dealing with that difficult situation”. You could say, “the impact was that the team was able to improve the data processing time by a day a month, freeing up time to create new ideas for next quarter.”

Learning – your reflections and anything you can do differently next time. This is a winner to include in your interviews. This is showing leadership! That you can reflect on something you did and demonstrate that you are open to do things better next time.


6. Show up as a leader

The interview is an opportunity for the interviewers to see you, as a leader, in action. So, how you show up and conduct yourself is your opportunity to demonstrate your leadership capabilities first-hand.

So just be you and show them that you’ve got this!

woman in a virtual job interview

How do I know this well help?

I have over 25 years experience in the corporate world, and know the struggle of wanting to be seen and heard as a woman in leadership. Through this experience, I've learned the skills you need to move forward in your leadership journey. These six tips are my tried and tested processes that I've seen work for many of my leadership coaching clients.

We need more compassion in the boardroom and throughout the world with women in leadership roles.

A women in the workplace showcasing leadership styles in management with her team.

With these tips and the your preparation, you will feel confident to ace that job interview!

Want to chat more?

If you're ready to develop your leadership skills, book a call or send me an email to find out how we can work together.
Michelle Johns, owner of Braveheart Coach, sitting at her desk in Melbourne working on her laptop with a notepad by her side.
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